South Dakota is a rural state with a population of about 860,000 people (US Census 2016). The unemployment rate in SD was 2.7% in June 2016, which is the lowest in the nation (SD Bureau of Finance and Management 2016). Agriculture is South Dakota’s number one industry with over $25 billion dollars in generated revenue contributing to 20% of state’s economy and employing 15% of the population in agriculture production and related fields in 2012 (South Dakota Department of Agriculture 2014). South Dakota’s beef industry is the main driver of the livestock economy, with 1.69 million beef cows in the state, it ranks 7th in the nation (USDA-NASS 2016). Pasture and rangeland account for half of the land use with the remaining used for crop production. The major crops are corn, soybeans, wheat, all hay, sunflower, oats, and sorghum (USDA-NASS 2016). Conventional agriculture tends to dominate the state with only a small minority of producers that are involved with alternative, sustainable, or organic agricultural practices. There are very few non-governmental agencies (NGOs) working on sustainable agriculture issues in the state.
South Dakota State University (SDSU) is the Land Grant institution with missions in research, teaching, and extension. SDSU Extension has seven regional hubs strategically located across the state where 46 field specialists with specific duties in generally one discipline reside (iGrow 2016). Extension’s core focus areas are: 4-H & youth, livestock, agronomy, healthy families, community development, and gardens. Extension mirrors the agricultural climate in South Dakota, however, local foods, community development and soil health are gaining traction. South Dakota SARE has been coordinated by Dr. Alexander (Sandy) Smart, a rangeland ecologist, in the Department of Natural Resources, since January 2015. Dr. Smart has spent considerable time rejuvenating the advisory board and increased activity to outreach professionals through travel scholarships and mini-grants.
Initiaitives for 2017-18 are:
- Soil health
- Livestock crop integration
- Local foods
- Building sustainable operations
What is sustainable agriculture? SARE defines sustainability using three key concepts: Profit over the long-term; Stewardship of our nation’s land, air, and water; and Quality of Life for farmers, ranchers, and their communities. This definition is similar to the concept of triple bottom-line economics: financial, environmental, and social. A business needs to be profitable, a good steward of its natural resources, and socially responsible. Moving toward sustainability should be seen as a continual process and not viewed dogmatically as “either you are or aren’t”.
The goal of the South Dakota PDP SARE program is to provide professional development opportunities for outreach personnel in state, federal, and non-governmental agencies. Travel scholarships are designed to provide opportunities for outreach personnel to gain new ideas, skills, and networking relationships that will enhance their work toward delivering sustainable agriculture programming. Usually individuals will apply for a travel scholarship to attend a professional conference, workshop, or meeting. Mini-grants are designed to provide opportunities to train the trainers. Mini-grants typically deliver training at conferences, workshops, or meetings to outreach personnel and can include end users, but that’s not its main audience.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Face of SARE
The goal of the “Face of SARE” program in South Dakota is to increase visibility of SARE projects and opportunities for farmers and ranchers in the state, and to address their questions and needs regarding grant applications. The Face of SARE is promoted by Sandy Smart and Dave Ollila (co-coordinator) with specific duties of Face of SARE. Dave will attend various workshops and other producer gatherings, setting up a booth and promoting the SARE program. Dave plans to attend multiple soil health/cover crop workshops, NPSAS Winter Conference, livestock meetings, and Specialty Producers meetings. We will continue to sponsor events such as; Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Society’s conference in Aberdeen, the organic IPM school held at Beresford and other producer oriented educational programs held in South Dakota. In addition, we will take advantage of any Advisory Board member attending producer meetings to set up the Face of SARE display and “man” the both whenever possible.
We continue to offer information for travel scholarships and mini-grants through our SARE web page in order to increase the profile of this support to interested educators/extension personnel. We intend to continue to promote this among educators, and help support useful workshops which will increase our visibility among both educators and producers.